Review: Wrap 1200 Video Eyewear

What gadget lover doesn't dream of the day they can be wearing sunglasses with overlay displays, augmenting their reality with location statistics, friend status, emails and every so often, a video. While we haven't quite yet progressed to having a low-cost consumer device that does all these things, the Vuzix Wrap 1200 delivers on at least one of these features. Read on to learn more.

The Wrap 1200 is billed as a video eyewear display that offers 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio video playback via two high-resolution 852 x 480 24-bit color LCD displays. The effect is pretty amazing, giving the illusion of watching a movie from the back row of a movie theater. In-ear headphones conveniently fit the headset configuration and supply decent sound along with the viewing experience. The overall configuration provides a fairly satisfying experience, though not without its share of problems.

An annoyance that I encountered as soon as I wore them was the weight of the glasses themselves. Because the two screens and electronics are mounted in the front of the headset, an imbalanced weight rests on the bridge of the nose. I had to constantly readjust the glasses every couple of minutes because they kept slipping down my nose as I wore them. This problem was alleviated when I reclined, forcing the headset to remain in a fixed position.  So don't expect to be standing or walking around while wearing these glasses and watching video at the same time… not a good idea anyway, since the glasses are not translucent. The shades that wrap the front of the glasses give the illusion that you're wearing bulky sunglasses, but in reality, your vision is mostly blocked by the two LCD's and the brackets holding them in place.


Wrap 1200

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The glasses advertise that they support both 2D and 3D video input sources, but I was only able to test output from my iPod, iPhone, iPad and composite television. The only 3D-capable playback device I have access to is a Sony Playstation 3, and that requires an HDMI cable for its high resolution output. Unfortunately, HDMI input is currently not available for the Wrap 1200. The box includes connectors for NTSC and PAL component, composite and iOS devices, with an optional Windows-compatible VGA/DVI connector that can be purchased separately. There's also an optional head tracking module that can be used to incorporate virtual reality positioning assuming that the application that you're using supports this feature.

Yet even with the annoyances and limitations, using the Wrap 1200 primarily to watch movies from an iPhone or iPod Touch, the product delivers on what it promises. The best case scenario for the Wrap 1200 will be for use by plane, train or bus commuters who can recline enough to feel immersed in the simulated movie theater experience that the Wrap 1200 has to offer. Battery life isn't too shabby either, considering that a mere two AA rechargeable batteries literally power the whole show. The glasses come with a battery pack that can be used to recharge the batteries, though if you plan on using the headset for a long flight, pack a couple extra rechargeable AA batteries (along with a spare battery pack for your iPhone or iPod Touch) to keep the videos coming.

While we haven't quite reached the visual overlay nirvana that has been dreamed about for years in various science fiction stories, the Wrap 1200 offers a glimpse of what's to come while satisfying an entertainment desire for today. And given its high cost, it's ideally geared for the gadget fan who can afford to enjoy the latest technology innovations.

Product: Wrap 1200
Manufacturer: Vuzix
Price: $599
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.